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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Seattle Opera's I puritani and a Letter of the (Other) Day

posted by on May 13 at 2:42 PM

Photo by Rozarii Lynch

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are your last chances to see Seattle Opera's new I Puritani (my review and my farewell to Seattle). I can't tell you which cast to see. Do you want to see the one with all the stunning male singers and one v.v. shitty female lead? or the one with the absolutely splendid female lead and v.v. good male cast? Just kidding, go see the second one, on Friday.

I had a dream last night where I was at this soirée for rich, white opera donors (what a riot those people are), and Seattle Opera General Manager Speight Jenkins spotted me from across the room and dashed over to say, "I need you to come with me; we need to talk, mister." And I totally gave him the Talk to the Hand gesture, a Puerto Rican hip swivel, and a forceful "Absolutely not."

I got this juicy email a few days ago from someone working on the production:

Hi! I just read your review of I Puritani. I can't give you my name since I am working in this opera, but I have to tell you that you are right on, as most of the cast and crew would agree with you. Of course, Larry [Brownlee] is going to be (when he reaches the full maturity of his singing voice, around 45 or 50) a true great, investing the time he does rehearsing as well as simply working on his art.

How many times have we already wondered "why isn't Eglise in the gold cast"? I stand in the wings, working every night, and she simply brings me to tears. If she wasn't already happily married I would court her like the demented fan I am. Moving to New York may get you a better regular run of singers, but DAMN I am glad you saw her perform this piece!

-Secret Opera Worker

With this Riccardo, Mariusz Kwiecien's voice has become strangely coarse since his Giovanni here last season. Someone in the press room—don't remember who—said that Kwiecien had mentioned modeling himself after mid-century baritone Ettore Bastianini. Follia! Bastianini may have been an exciting singer, but he was not a refined one, and his voice was a size bigger than Kwiecien's.

Sidenotes: Is my vision going bad, or was that Mariusz sitting next to Speight Jenkins at the matinee? With all those promotional personal introductions going on around them, can we expect a pet baritone in Seattle's future? And shit, while we're moving new singers into heavier rep innappropriate for their voices, let's go ahead and sign him up for Wotan now. Also who was that other fellow who seemed to be following Kwiecien around? I'm can't say it wasn't his boyfriend, but there's a lot of stuff I probably can't say. Szszszsz!

Lawrence Brownlee takes the insane high F in "Credeasi misera." It's not beautiful, but it's there and it's real. Curious as to what it sounds like?

Even better, here's a splice of nine audio recordings (live, mostly) of other tenors going for that F.

And for those audience members who, like me, are in love with Eglise Gutierrez, good news: She's coming back for Traviata and Lucia. Of course also on the roster for Lucia is Patrizia Ciofi, who's not horrible. It'll be interesting to see who gets favored for the main (and broadcast) cast, but I'm pretty sure I know the answer. In any case, I hope Gutierrez decides to slim down in the middle. Oh, come on—I'm talking about the middle of her voice, but I guess nowadays, the other couldn't hurt.

The Tony Awards 2008, or Enough with the Goddamned Shakespeare Already

posted by on May 13 at 1:32 PM

The list of nominees for the eight-inch, silver-plated statue is here.


Bart Sher has been nominated for Best Director of a Musical for South Pacific. (Which we expected because everybody—perhaps literally everybody—loved it. See excerpts from drooling critics, even the hard cases at WSJ, the NYT, and the New Yorker here.)

Young Frankenstein got three nominations (actor, actress, scenic design), which is three too many. brooks_mel_newsweek071102_th01mel_v.jpg (You could only argue that Andrea Martin deserves the actress award if you're grading on a curve. Yes, she was the best thing about the show—but being prettier than a dung heap isn't an achievement.)

All the best actor nominees are British, except for Laurence Fishburne (for Thurgood).

Nominees for best play/playwright: August: Osage County (Tracy Letts), Rock 'n' Roll (Tom Stoppard), The Seafarer (Conor McPherson), The 39 Steps (Patrick Barlow).

Lifetime achievement: Stephen Sondheim.

And award for regional theater: Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Really? A regional Shakespeare theater? How very, very lame.

Shakespeare gets enough attention and reward in America, what with the NEA shoving piles of its theater money to Shakespeare-in-the-heartland projects because they're too afraid of Congress to fund much else—like, say, even American classics like Tennessee fucking Williams.

Which is bogus.

It's not like the NEA has to stuff cash directly into Karen Finley's crotch to earn its name as America's arts foundation, but can it dial the time machine forward at least 400 years, to maybe the early 20th century?

I'm glad Chicago has a strong showing this year, with Steppenwolf's August winning the Pulitzer and now, almost certainly, the Tony. And Barbara Gaines, artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, sounds like a champ. (See the profile of her here.)

But giving a Tony to a regional Shakespeare house, especially now, seems like a capitulation to pernicious forces.

(But thank god for small favors—congratulations to Bart, raspberries to Mel.)

An UPDATE/REFUTATION, just emailed from a Chicago resident:

Chicago Shakespeare began doing Henry V on the roof of a tavern on Lincoln Avenue (a classic beginning for a Chicago storefront theatre). They're now filthy rich, thanks to the fundraising prowess of Gaines and Co. What I think distinguishes them from "regional Shakespeare" is the way they push their audience (and I'm a subscriber). Since they've moved to Navy Pier (the equivalent, in some ways, of having a theatre at Pike Market in terms of tourist trade) they almost always bring in some famed European or British outfit to put on an innovative (or crazy) version of something well-known.

Their Rose Rage, an adaptation of the Henry IV plays, set in a butcher's shop, using real meat for props, was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in any theatre. When the murder of characters is represented by actual meat being cleaved, real blood all over the stage, it almost made me go vegetarian.

Long story short: they don't just put on a Tragedy, a Comedy and a History/Problem Play each year for the blue-hairs. They are much much better than that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Menacing Puppets and Curtains in Love

posted by on May 9 at 11:08 AM

I went to see Aurelia's Oratorio the other night, with about eight other picky people, and we all liked it far more than we thought we would. (The pot probably helped.)

The Oratorio (as she said in this slightly prickly Slog interrogation) is a string of short cirque vignettes about the world being upside-down and backwards.

Our favorite bits: Curtains pawing each other, menacing (and suicidal) puppets, a coat that attacks its owner, a smoking baby, and the world's simplest, stupidest, best joke involving a fan.

It runs through this weekend. See it if you can.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Will the Hunchback Curse Strike Again?

posted by on May 7 at 10:21 AM


As local theatrical masochists will remember forever, in 1998, Seattle was blessed with a locally produced world-premiere rock musical based on Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Not since HAIR has a stage musical come along with the power to capture the imagination of an audience and leave them cheering like HUNCHBACK, an entirely new, blazingly original work by C.Rainey Lewis.

That's a quote from the still-active Hunchback website, and it is factual. Hunchback captured the imagination of everyone who's ever wondered, "What's the worst thing that could happen if a New-Agey blues rocker with a lot of money and a weird Hunchback fixation decided to take it to the stage?", and left its small but lucky audiences cheering a world that would allow such a monstrosity to come to fruition.

I'm proud to say I saw Hunchback, and it was so extravagantly bad I shall never forget it. On one hand you had the producers' hubris, which drove them to book a world-premiere rock musical based on Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame, written and directed by a fledgling theatrical talent with an iffy track record, into the humongous King Cat Theater for eight shows a week for four weeks, resulting in largely empty houses and cancelled shows. On the other, you had the vast limitations of the material and the delusions of its creator. "HUNCHBACK's twenty songs include numerous 'instant classics,' and several which are candidates to become radio hits," hypes the website, which also does a good job of characterizing the individual compositions:

"(Oh Let Me Be) Your Obsession": A new twist on the seduction song, "Obsession" succeeds in combining innocence and lust in a homage to male power and sexuality combined with a fervent prayer for peace and harmony between the Universal Male and Female Principle. "Oh, let me be your obsession. Your love's in need of expression". Musically, the song lilts, swells, and sparkles in a brilliant and infectious melding of Western classical and Mideastern exotic, made all the more entertaining by the Gypsy girls' dancing.

What's more, a number of Seattle's best-and-brightest--actors, dancers, musicians, designers--were dragged onto the sinking ship of Hunchback, lured by four simple words on the audition notice: "All positions are paid." Among the brave Hunchback veterans: Derek Horton, Meghan Arnette, Jonathan Hochberg, Bhama Roget, Diana Cardiff, Hassan Christopher, Holly Eckert, and many more, each of whom deserves a fucking medal.

Why I'm bringing all this up now: A decade after Seattle's Hunchback, another rocker is creating another new rock musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. To learn the identity of this rocker and more about his soon-to-be-opening show, please see Line Out.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

News Flash: David Mamet Won't—Or Can't—Shut the Fuck Up

posted by on May 6 at 11:20 AM

Please enjoy this in-the-trenches report from someone who suffered through Mamet reading his verse adaptation of Faust at the 92nd Street Y:

Mamet commented mildly as literally half of a very full auditorium made for the exits. He was bombing, and he did seem to enjoy it, as if he was involved in seeing what would happen if he persisted. If his play-in-verse lacked drama, at least he could enjoy the drama of human nature. When all the brave ones had left, the Kauffman audience looked like a tooth had been extracted...

Between this and the rambling, I-just-rediscovered-civics-and-now-I'm-a-conservative essay he wrote for the Village Voice a few months ago, I'm starting to worry the about the old man. He's always had a little bit of the crazy-eyes:


Monday, May 5, 2008

Pie Laughing

posted by on May 5 at 2:49 PM

Tonight, Pagliacci Pizza on Broadway, will host the first of its monthly comedy nights, with host Emmett Montgomery.

Tonight's comedian: Kevin Hyder of the People's Republic of Komedy:

Free admission. Beer, wine, pizza.

That is all.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Interrogation with Aurélia Thiérrée

posted by on May 2 at 11:06 AM


In France in the 1970s, Victoria Chaplin (daughter of Charlie) and Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée (a French movie star) started performing a kind of circus act nobody had seen before. It was a marriage of the new and the nostalgic, vaudeville for drug people, that ditched the traditional flashy costumes, animal acts, and other three-ring hooha for dreamy clowning.

People called it cirque nouveau and it became the fountainhead for the cabaret and circus revival that’s everywhere today, from Circus Contraption to Cirque de Soleil. None of that would be possible without Chaplin and Thiérrée, the American actress and the French movie star who fell in love and ran away to their own kind of circus.

Aurélia Thiérrée is their daughter and is coming to the Seattle Rep, to perform her show Aurélia's Oratorio. We talked on the telephone—me sitting in the park in Seattle, her sitting in her apartment in New York. She did not want to talk about her grandfather, Charlie Chaplin, or her great-grandfather, Eugene O’Neill.

You grew up performing with in your parents’ circus?
It was a way to keep the family together. Sometimes we were on the road for eight or nine months. We had tutors who came to give us lessons two hours a day in each city.

That's nice. So if you had a teacher you hated, you knew you'd never see him or her again.
Well, sometimes yes. But sometimes we would be in one city for a few months.

What was your parents’ circus like?
They were the first to believe circus could be changed, but circus performers weren’t ready to change. They were using traditions that had been passed down through the generations. Changing their acts, their costumes, or no more animals—it wasn’t possible. So my parents created their own circus to do whatever they wanted.

Your mother created this show?
My mother and I together, little by little, while I was working with the Tiger Lilies. As a family, we always work together.

What were you doing with the Tiger Lilies?
I prefer really to focus on this show, because that’s my reality today.

What’s it like?
It’s difficult to describe. It’s not circus, not dance, not a children’s show, and not theater. The original idea began with a book of medieval drawings of the world turned upside-down. They reverted situations to create humor and were also used as politically—maybe a man riding a horse upside-down or women going to war, things like that. That was the idea: to take a tableau you’re familiar with, but everything is upside-down. Also, I had the idea of a woman going completely mad.


What will people see at the show?
I’m reluctant to describe the acts precisely.

Could you describe them generally?
I tried to use whatever I could to please my mother.

What pleases your mother?
She has a very precise theatrical language. She uses old tricks but attaches them to images that are very modern.

What kind of tricks?
Optical illusions—there is a costume where I am an hourglass and then I turn into sand, using a really, really old trick but one that’s never been used in this way.

Is there a name for this trick?
If there were, I would never, never tell you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Arts Headline of the Day

posted by on April 30 at 12:43 PM

Puppets can't portray the full range of 'Don Giovanni'


Department of Municipal Theater Envy

posted by on April 30 at 10:57 AM

For those of you who enjoyed the seven-plus-hour Gatz, by Elevator Repair Service, at On the Boards last September...


... please enjoy/chafe under today's NYT review of ERS's latest project: The Sound and the Fury.


Take it away, Benjamin D. Brantley:

... after a few first minutes of resistance, I let myself fall into the shifting swirl of voices and movements. Sometimes it was the stylized, seemingly incongruous elements in this activity that most sharply summoned Benjy’s dissociative worldview.

Antic, jaunty dances, for example, become a sensual metaphor for Benjy’s watching social rituals without having a clue as to what they mean (and perhaps also for our own bewilderment). In a scene where the carriage in which Benjy and his mother are riding suddenly turns around, Ms. Sokol’s body is physically twisted by others, conjuring the disrupting disorientation Benjy feels.

When he cries, as he often does, the haunted bellow that fills the air usually comes not from the person playing him, but from some unspecified source. It’s a device neatly matching Benjy’s inability to connect cause and effect, even when the cause is himself.

Remember how great Gatz was? How hypnotic? And surprising (like reinventing the character of Jay Gatsby by giving the role to a brooding John Malkovich type instead of a golden playboy)? Remember the way time stretched and bent around the actors and the story? Stretching in the aisles afterwards, some people said it was like a transcontinental flight. Others said it was like a drug trip. Pretty much everyone said it awesome.

So who can we convince to bring TSaTF here? Seattle Rep? Can you put it on your smaller second stage? Maybe in conjunction with the International Children's Festival (like you're doing with Aurélia’s Oratorio)?

Maybe under the rubric of a helping-adults-understand-developmentally-disabled-kids program?

Maybe we can score some education grant money to make it happen? Can we get the Mayor's Office and 4Culture in on this?


Monday, April 28, 2008

Theater Letter of the Day

posted by on April 28 at 4:49 PM

Revenge of the comedians—a PRoK host, fed up with what sounds like crappy treatment from Mr. Spot's Chai House, takes his audience with him and leaves the cafe empty.

Any cafes out there want to offer Lo-Ball a home? It's free and all-ages, but it pulls in crowds—you might be wise to offer the host (PRoK's Paul Merrill) a little scratch to bring it to your establishment...

On Friday night, a comedian took an entire audience outside with him to protest poor treatment from a club and performed the rest of the show in a nearby park.

Lo-Ball (The Local Ballard Comedy Show) had been a staple of the Seattle comedy scene for the past two years, bringing in big crowds to Mr. Spot's Chai House in Ballard to see a mix of amateur and professional comedians try out new material. Produced by the People's Republic of Komedy (who will be hosting their own stage at Bumbershoot this year) the show had been featured in the Seattle Times, The Seattle Weekly, The Stranger and Seattle Magazine.

Six months ago, however, a new booker was brought into the Chai House who clearly had no love for comedy. Shows were being booked at odd times or suddenly canceled at the last moment. Soon the crowds, who never knew when to show up anymore, stopped coming. Last Friday, two hours before the show, the Chai House sent a MySpace message to Paul Merrill, the producer of Lo-Ball, informing him that they no longer wanted comedy at their shop.

After two years of bringing packed houses to the Chai House every Friday night for no compensation (the show was always free and all-ages), Lo-Ball was history.

Instead of going out with a whimper, however, Merrill decided to show the Chai House what they'd be missing. At the start of the show, he asked everyone in the audience who had come to see comedy to stand. All of the 20-30 people in the crowd stood up. He then announced that they'd be moving the show outside. The entire crowd then followed Merrill outside to nearby Bergen Place Park, where they preceded to put on a comedy show to a loyal (and shivering) audience.

Over the course of the show, the crowd grew as curious passersby stopped to enjoy the free entertainment. After the comedians finished, Merrill offered to buy everyone a drink—provided it wasn't at the Chai House.

Wednesday Night: Lewd Puppetry and Accordion Music

posted by on April 28 at 1:40 PM

What: A benefit for the Vera Project.

Who: A puppet show by the always awesome Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes.


Also, music by Accordion Boy (also known as Nate Mooter of Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Strong Killings, and the Lashes).


Where: McLeod Residence.

When: Wednesday April 30 at 7 pm.

What else: Fish and chips. And whiskey.

How much: Suggested donation of $15.

Background: Last year, Sgt. Rigsby offered to donate a private puppet show for our Strangercrombie charity auction. Our own Ari Spool bought the package and, overachiever that she is, decided to double-down on the do-gooding: a puppet show bought for charity, repurposed into a fundraiser.

The result is like a miracle—everything anyone could want (Sgt. Rigsby, Accordion Boy, McLeod, Vera, whiskey) all in one place.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"It was bad of me to call you a cunt, whether we were in the Albertsons or not.

posted by on April 25 at 4:45 PM

Autobahn is the best bit of theater Re-bar has hosted in a long time.


It's a cycle of five short plays by Neil LaBute—whose misogyny is only eclipsed by his general misanthropy—all of which happen in cars. In one, a graduate student realizes his temporary townie girlfriend is going to become his stalker. In another, a jackass husband (Troy Fischnaller, a convincing jackass) begrudgingly apologizes to his silent, weeping wife:

“I was wrong. Is that what you want to hear? Is it? ’Kay. It was bad of me to call you a cunt, whether we were in the Albertsons or not.

In another, a pizza delivery guy (Shawn Law, the beardo above) tries to convince his sad-sack friend (Dusty Warren) to go fetch his video-game console from his ex-girlfriend's house—never mind his kids:

"The kids, I mean, you can't deal with that now, you can't, that's a matter for the courts and all, our legal system, but there's nothing written or unwritten that says someone can take up ownership of your Nintendo 64 just because they want to."

Fischnaller is the engine behind the production, which features good directors (Allison Narver, Peggy Gannon) and good actors (Trick Danneker, Shawn Belyea, Angela DiMarco). And they did the whole production for under $1,000, even with equity actors. (Fischnaller got a special dispensation from equity, whose rules tend to keep union and nonunion actors apart, to everyone's detriment.)

Anyway: Re-bar is as good a place as any to watch a couple returning a foster child, a husband wringing a confession out of his wife, and the other stripped-down vignettes on human awfulness. The lights are dim and the booze is proximal.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Outer Critics Circle in Outer Fucking Space

posted by on April 24 at 1:16 PM

From Playbill:

Nominees for the 58th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards were announced April 21 at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. The new Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein earned 10 nominations, the most of any show of the season.

Which is insane. Because Young Frankenstein, by any measure, sucked. It was rotten when it premiered here and stayed rotten when it went east.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For All of You Who Heard the Rumor that 14/48 Is Leaving Capitol Hill Arts Center...

posted by on April 23 at 2:14 PM

... it's not. Not yet, anyway. After a long(ish) conversation with Shawn Belyea yesterday, here's a brief update on the state of things with 14/48 and CHAC.

• The future of the CHAC building is uncertain (as it always has been), and 14/48 is talking to some other theaters—notably, ACT—to lay the groundwork for a possible future move.

• CHAC proprietor Matthew Kwatinetz is deciding whether to renew his lease and is considering buying the building.

• CHAC might convert its Showroom (the main, first-floor room that doubles as a theater and a nightclub) into rentable office space. That would ameliorate two of CHAC's major, perennial problems: noise complaints from neighboring condo-dwellers, and precarious finances. (It would also, of course, take CHAC another step away from being an "arts center.") Belyea said CHAC has considered the office-space conversion two or three times before.

• But, for the near future, People's Republic of Komedy will occupy the Showroom.

• And while we're on the subject of PRoK, here are posters for their new shows in Hollywood (Hub Bub) and New York (Sweet Haven).



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hello, I Must Be Going, Part Two: In Which We Speculate About Why David Esbjornson Is Leaving the Rep So Soon

posted by on April 22 at 10:40 AM

One of the first things David Esbjornson did when he became artistic director of the Seattle Rep was decline to give an interview with The Stranger.


"He is still in the process of learning about Seattle," a Rep publicist said by way of polite refusal back in late 2005.

It appears Esbjornson never fully succeeded in decoding the city. Last week, the Rep announced that he would leave in 2009, as soon as his first contract expires. (Four years is a relatively short tenure for an artistic director in Seattle: Bart Sher took the helm at Intiman in 2000. And Daniel Sullivan was AD at the Rep for 18 years.)

True to form, Esbjornson has declined to say where or why he is going. I asked board president Marty Taucher whether Esbjornson was leaving because of problems with budgets, programming, staff, or community relations. “All of those,” he replied.

Among Esbjornson's achievements: being the first to maximize the Rep's available space, programming full seasons in the secondary Leo K Theater; and being quick to identify young local talent.

He entrusted the Rep's production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie (a one-woman play so controversial, it was scheduled in, then kicked out of, New York) to excellent local artists: director Braden Abraham, actor Marya Sea Kaminski, and designer Jennifer Zeyl.


The bet paid off with a successful show (my review here) and an extended run. It's hard to imagine another major artistic director who'd hand over the car keys so willingly—and have the judgment to know which artists to hand them to.

But Esbjornon’s season programming reflected his background as a freelancer; it didn’t cohere, but instead lurched from bold gambles like Rachel Corrie and Ariel Dorfman's Purgatorio to vapid pap like Tuesdays With Morrie (which I hate, hate, hate on here) and Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday Concert.


During Esbjornson's reign, the Rep has tried to be all things to all people.

Taucher said Esbjornson has “pushed us to be more ambitious,” but that newer and sometimes undercooked productions, like The Breach, “have not achieved a lot of resonance in this market.” (According to numbers from the Rep, subscription sales are expected to decline six percent by the end of this season.)

Those mixed results must be frustrating for a guy who had such a successful career as a freelancer. Esbjornson directed the first production of Angels in America (in 1991, at the Eureka Theatre Company in San Francisco) and was a favorite director of Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Dorfman.

Maybe he wanted some of what Bart Sher was having across the street at Intiman: a stable base from which to fly off to work at Lincoln Center and the Met Opera, and to get, you know, Tony nominations.

Which must have been doubly frustrating.

But every exit is an entrance someplace else. Next year, Orphans, starring Al Pacino, will open on Broadway.

Its director: David Esbjornson.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How Theater Failed America

posted by on April 21 at 12:49 PM

Mike Daisey has opened his new show, How Theater Failed America at Joe's Pub in New York.

See the (mixed) NYT review here:

"He may not have much to say, but he says it with enough mastery to restore that sense of wonder to the theater."

See Daisey's reactions to the reactions to his piece (and reactions to a galvanizing essay he published in The Stranger) at

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hello, I Must Be Going

posted by on April 17 at 4:16 PM

This just in: David Esbjornson, artistic director of Seattle Rep, has decided not to renew his contract. He came to the Rep in 2005 and his contract expires June, 2009.

He's a fairly taciturn guy (I made up an interview with him when he first got here and was reluctant to speak to the press) and only says, through a Rep spokesperson, that he's leaving "for a complex of reasons."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Onward and Upward with the People's Republic of Komedy

posted by on April 14 at 2:10 PM

Good news from the ever-ambitious people at PROK: The Republic is spreading to New York and Los Angeles.

This summer, emissaries from PROK, some of whom have already made advance moves eastward and southward, will begin regular shows at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood and (probably) Pianos on the Lower East Side.

More details forthcoming. But, for now, congratulations!

In more middling news: PROK-Seattle is moving Laff Hole (its weekly, flagship comedy night) from Chop Suey into the upstairs theater at Capitol Hill Arts Center.

I'm guessing they're moving because a) the closure of the Crocodile has made it more urgent for Chop Suey to book rock acts on Wednesday nights and b) Chop Suey never was an ideal venue for comedy. It was too easy to lose the crowd in that big, unfocused cavern of a room.

But moving back to CHAC, which has been a revolving door for theaters and arts organizations, doesn't seem like the best idea—not least because PROK and CHAC already lived together once, a couple of years ago. It didn't work out.

And, as wise people say, there are no second acts in love.

PROK should move to Re-bar, home of Dina Martina and Brown Derby and Greek Active and two decades of marrying drinking, theater, and comedy. The Republic and Re-bar belong together.

Can some matchmaker get on that?

Friday, April 11, 2008


posted by on April 11 at 10:02 AM

On the last Monday of every month, in the narrow, reddish, antique-looking theater of the Rendezvous, a performance happens that you aren't supposed to see. On those Mondays, host Korby Sears, wearing a navy blue suit with a shimmery white scarf, invites that month's performer into an enormous box on the small stage, leaves the theater, and hopes nobody shows up.

Strikethrough reverse-advertises itself each month with posters and print ads listing the date and location, who will perform, and a notice in bold: "NO ONE ADMITTED. No public. No press. No family. No friends."

But last Monday at the Rendezvous, I followed Sears up a ladder to the light booth and asked if my friend and I could go inside the theater. "Um," he paused. "Yes." ("Nobody had asked to go in before," Sears said the next day, sounding exasperated that somebody had pierced the veil. "When you asked, I gave you the wrong answer.")

My friend and I were the only people there. The theater was dark, with one red light shining directly above the enormous box. Three electronic tones—one short like a piano note, the other two droning, like sitars—played over and over and over again. Inside the box, allegedly, was dk pan, a performance artist affiliated with Degenerate Art Ensemble, Infernal Noise Brigade, and the Motel Project, doing... something. Strikethrough demands secrecy: Performers are not allowed to talk about their performances, not even with Sears. (A week before his Strikethrough debut, pan confessed he felt nervous about performing for an audience of none, more nervous than he'd felt in a long time. "I don't have to impress an audience," he said. "I have to impress myself.")

And that was it, for an hour and a half—the box, the red light, the electronic tones. "It's Schrödinger's Cat: the Musical," my friend whispered. Four more people arrived about halfway through, then left, then returned with fresh drinks. Inside the box, dk (or whomever) jumped (it sounded like jumping) for a few seconds. Then more nothing.

Life's too short for this kind of nonsense, I thought and then stayed for the whole thing. Watching the box, with the electronic tones playing, in a dark theater, was oddly relaxing. "It's sad," someone whispered, "but this is better than most theater I've seen lately." There's something admirably—and grotesquely—decadent about a performance that doesn't want your attention, love, or money. (Sears pays $75 to rent the theater; the artists don't get paid.) People won't clamor (or pay) to watch Strikethrough, but people would clamor (or pay) to do it. Sears may have invented a new kind of therapy.

"This whole series is about the artists, not the audience," Sears said the next day. "It's for their own goddamned selves." He insists there's no irony to Strikethrough, no punch line. "It's hard to talk about it without sounding cryptic, like I'm trying to play you. But I'm not. Really, I should just keep quiet."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

15 Minutes at The Anne Bonny

posted by on April 9 at 5:41 PM

It's not just that Spencer Moody sells great things formerly owned by now-dead people, or that he hosts an art gallery on the top floor of his store, The Anne Bonny, but this month he also is hosting free performances lasting 15 minutes or less every night, starting at 6 pm.

So if you're going to be in the neighborhood, here's what's on the schedule this week, according to an email from Mr. Moody (the Anne Bonny is closed on Mondays, by the way):

Wed the 9th: Eric Ostrowski (you may know him from Noggin)

Thu the 10th: Standup from Derek Sheen

Fri the 11th: Performance by Ezra Dickenson

Sat the 12th: Seattle's #1 funny lady Jen Seaman

Sun the 13th: The Portland-based arts journal YETI celebrates the release of YETI #5 with mirth and music and copies of the new issue which is only $11.95. (Okay, this event will last longer than 15 minutes.) YETI #5 is packed-to-the gills: An 80-minute CD with 25 rare tracks and 228 perfect-bound pages plus a gorgeous metallic 4-color cover by Saul Chernick.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Everybody Loves Bartlett

posted by on April 8 at 12:17 PM


Critics high and low are going all squishy and gushy about the new Broadway revival of South Pacific (which opened at the Lincoln Center on April 3).

And they're giving special rose-petal-and-champagne showers to director Bartlett Sher, who will most certainly be nominated again for a directing Tony (to add to his previous nominations for Piazza and Awake and Sing).

John Lahr, practicing restrained enthusiasm in The New Yorker:

Under the elegant, astute direction of Bartlett Sher, Lincoln Center’s revival—the first on Broadway since the show’s début—is a majestic spectacle. Conjured by Michael Yeargan’s superb sets and Donald Holder’s evocative lighting, the romantic and rollicking nineteen-forties world comes to life. But there is nothing retro about the show’s debate. Now, as then, the nation is stuck on issues of race, war, and, as the musical puts it, a 'thing called hope.'

Ben Brantley, losing his curmudgeonly mind in The New York Times:

I know we’re not supposed to expect perfection in this imperfect world, but I’m darned if I can find one serious flaw in this production... I think a lot of us had forgotten that’s what 'South Pacific' is really about. In making the past feel unconditionally present, this production restores a glorious gallery of genuine people who were only waiting to be resurrected.

And Terry Teachout, my perennial favorite, in the Wall Street Journal—he identifies flaws in the source material, but cannot stop himself from drooling over Sher:

Why did South Pacific vanish from the New York stage after so triumphant and profitable a run? Lincoln Center Theater's awesomely fine revival, which opened last night, answers that question once and for all. Bartlett Sher, best known on Broadway for his work on The Light in the Piazza, has directed it as well as it can possibly be directed, and Kelli O'Hara is giving a full-fledged name-above-the-title performance in the starring role created six decades ago by Mary Martin. Nearly every aspect of this production -- sets, costumes, lighting, even the sumptuous-sounding orchestra -- is exemplary. Yet the show itself, in spite of its hit-laden score, left me tepid, and I suspect that most people seeing it for the first time will feel the same way.

South Pacific goes dead in the water every time the characters stop singing and start talking, which is way too often.... Will true love purge our poor benighted heroine of her racism? Will her middle-aged suitor be killed in a daredevil mission behind Japanese lines? Would that one could care, but Hammerstein preaches his sermon with head-thumping triteness.

Bonus round: South Pacific has given the swoony gays at Modern Fabulosity a new object d'amour in Paolo Szot, the Brazilian opera singer playing Emile De Bec:


We chatted, but all too soon he turned to go...but not before locking eyes with mine and thanking me, deeply, gratefully, soulfully, for coming to the show. I tried to yell out, 'I Will Be Your Babymama,' but he was already moving down the hall. And like that (poof)... he was gone. But he will be mine. Oh yes, he will be mine. I'm a Broadway stalker from way back, bitches... Bali H'ai is calling my name, and on some enchanted evening soon, Paolo will definitely see this stranger across a crowded room, if you know what I'm saying, and I think you do.

Congratulations, Mr. Sher.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wooden O and Seattle Shakes Merge

posted by on April 7 at 4:50 PM

The city's minor and major Shakespeare companies merged last Wednesday, which makes total sense—they've shared missions, audiences, and aesthetics since forever.

Wooden O (budget around $90,000, operating in the black) was the smaller, outdoor-Shakespeare company that served as a kind of farm team for Seattle Shakes. A few actors and directors (like Sheila Daniels, now at Intiman) did a few Wooden O productions before graduating to Shakes.

Seattle Shakespeare Company (budget around $900,000, also in the black) is the permanent company living in a theater on the bottom floor of Seattle Center.

Seattle Shakes managing director John Bradshaw says Wooden O will benefit by having more resources and infrastructure to cultivate its outdoor and touring programs. Seattle Shakes will benefit from Wooden O's touring skills so they can bring Shakes-level productions "to every corner of the state."

(Bringing Shakespeare to the hinterlands has been the NEA's conservative and middlebrow mission since the combined effects of the NEA Four, Newt G's Republican revolution, and the Bush administration have cowed the NEA into a frightened, small child, hiding in a corner of the US government. One could be forgive for thinking that Seattle Shakes merged with Wooden O to get some of the NEA's "Shakespeare in American Communities" money—but they've already received that grant for three years running.)

Read Charles Mudede's review of The Miser, currently on at Seattle Shakes, here. It contains perhaps my favorite closing sentences in the Mudede canon: "Everyone will see your gums in the dark."

Big Boi + Ballet = Another Reason to Move to Atlanta

posted by on April 7 at 11:31 AM

This I want to see:


[This Thursday night], at the fittingly grandiose, neo-Moorish Fox Theater, Mr. Patton [Big Boi of OutKast] will perform with the Atlanta Ballet, the first major collaboration between a hip-hop luminary and a ballet company. The name of the production, of course, is “big.”

A few are grumbling with sublimated miscegenation (kind of like the shit Joni Mitchell and Mingus took when they started playing together), but most partisans for both art forms have restrained themselves from the easy criticisms, partly because neither Big Boi nor choreographer Lauri Stallings (her major influence is Israeli dance badass Ohad Naharin) are meek, cloying artists. They're both stubborn, smart, sometimes baffling, and kind of fearless—going into the project, neither knew much about the other's medium:

... before “big” Mr. Patton’s ballet experience began and ended with an elementary school outing to see “The Nutcracker,” and the new work’s choreographer, Lauri Stallings, had never listened to hip-hop.

But Stallings fans say her choreography has always been suited to hip hop, even if she didn't know it.

... unlike some fusion ballets of the past, the dancers will not be performing half-baked hip-hop moves but Ms. Stallings’s earthy, syncopated choreography, which, as the company veteran Christine Winkler said, in some ways works better with hip-hop than with classical music.

For the hip hop scene's part:

Professor Dyson, echoing several young Atlanta artists who weighed in on the project, sees in “big” an opportunity for hip-hop to re-examine some of its more self-destructive tendencies, including violence and “the blitzkrieg of misogyny that passes for commentary on gender.” If anyone could get hip-hop to open up, he said, it would be one of the adventurous stars of OutKast.

But maybe not open up too much:

So when John McFall, the ballet’s artistic director first approached Mr. Patton with the idea of a collaboration, the rapper said, “I’m down to try anything once.” (Except, he later added, wear tights; he may be a progressive, but he’s still got some street cred to maintain.)

The obligatory YouTube trailer of the project (sadly, the preview is all soft numbers like "Church." I want to see what they'll do with "The Rooster" or "Bombs Over Baghdad"):

Other Big Boi cuts will include: "Morris Brown" from the Idlewild soundtrack, "The Rooster" from Speakerboxxx, "Bombs Over Baghdad" from Stankonia, "Kryptonite" from Big Boi Presents...Got Purp? Vol. 2, and a few others.

We can only hope for a tour. The Moore and the Paramount usually present those kind of traveling shows, but this action should rightly go to Peter Boal, the young New York City Ballet dancer-cum-PNB director who's turned on the voltage at his hallowed company in the last couple of years.

Anyway, here's hoping. And here's an email address for PNB, should you want to start stumping for the Big Boi/ballet in Seattle. Or at least some collaboration with Blue Scholars, Common Market, and the rest of the Seattle crew:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Benefit Bonanza

posted by on April 4 at 12:46 PM

Theaters are all poor and starving and stuff—little chimney sweeps and matchbox girls, wandering the landscape, begging for pennies—and this weekend, a bunch are throwing benefit parties.

There's Toast and Jam for Mirror Stage Company (a raffle and jazz) and Food as Art for the Central District Forum for Arts and Idea ($100 tickets to sample tasting stations by chefs from Campagne, Tavolata, and others).

But I would like to draw your attention to two in particular.

Saturday: Mad WET Tea Party, for Washington Ensemble Theatre. WET's going through changes—for one, a logo redesign because of this dumb legal threat from a company in New York. (The column I've linked to ran in October, though not much has changed—the wheels of injustice turn slowly.) For two, the departure of Marya Sea Kaminksi, which I frame as dispiriting news in this column. But I shouldn't be such a grump. The company has several younger members (Michael Place, Elise Hunt) who, I have every hope, will pick up the banner and run. Run like crazy.

Also, a few weeks ago, someone stole WET's cash box during a production of Mr. Marmalade, setting the company back a few hundred bucks. So go. Enjoy. Give them money. Consider it a civic investment in one of the city's best companies.

Friday: Song–Dance–Other, for On the Boards. Allegedly, there will be three karaoke machines, with artists and others going bonkers to their favorite songs, in ways no karaoke bar would allow. (The OtB crew is infamous at Ozzie's, across the street from the theater, for reckless post-show karaoke parties with touring artists doing loud, bizarre, and sometimes obnoxious versions of their favorite karaoke songs. Apparently the bouncers sometimes get a little agitated.)

There will be beer. And Vietnamese sandwiches. They will be cheap!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Black and White and Red All Over

posted by on April 2 at 4:25 PM


Nick Garrison was born to play the emcee in Cabaret (now playing at the 5th Avenue). He is known for his preternatural ability to embody the feminine (the Glenn Close part in Fatal Attraction at Re-bar, the nurse in Loot at Intiman) and the not-quite-masculine (the mannish woman Randee Sparks in his self-written solo work and, most of all, Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch). He is a master of improvisation, which you've got to be to play the emcee, since the emcee interacts with the audience as if they (we) are sitting at tables in a late-Weimar-Republic-era cabaret in Berlin. He has enough in his repertoire, enough presence, to sustain being onstage almost constantly, even walking through scenes he has nothing to do with. And he can sing like a motherfucker.

But you can't help thinking that, with his bald head and skeleton-y pallor, Garrison would be more at home in the Sam Mendes revival of Cabaret of a decade ago, in which everything was black, bleak, stripped to a chilling bareness, right down to the cabaret girls and boys in their underwear, who squirmed around on the stage in the former Studio 54, their eyes sunken holes, their expressions all heroin-blank and depraved. There is nothing depraved about this production of Cabaret, to its detriment. The tables are red, the chairs are red, the banisters are red, the pants are red, the jackets are red, the ties are red, the suspenders are red, the feathers on women's hats are red, their dresses are red (with red sequins), the gloves are red, the stripe on someone's purple fedora is red, and the emcee's pants, jacket, vest, and top hat are red. We are supposed to be in the dark heart of a distorting time, but the whole thing looks like a commercial for strawberries. Then, during the number "Money," a bunch of dollar bills rain down on the audience, and it's literally Monopoly money. This production gives Garrison nothing to work with and, in turn, his performance seems half-hearted. Tari Kelly, as Sally Bowles, is a zero. But Suzy Hunt (as Fräulein Schneider) and Angie Louise (as Fräulein Kost) are captivating.

This Weekend, The Stranger Also (Improbably) Suggests: A Sketch Comedy Festival in Bellingham

posted by on April 2 at 11:47 AM

I wouldn't normally flog a sketch comedy festival in Bellingham, or a sketch comedy festival anywhere. In fact, the words "sketch comedy festival" should send a little chill through the heart of any reasonable person. (Sorry, Seattle Sketchfest.)

HOWEVER! This weekend is the first weekend of the poorly named, but well-curated, Sketchingham, which has been cobbled together by the Cody Rivers Show, who are comedy geniuses. (Seriously: They've been independently audited by myself and Lindy West, and we're both picky. And we shortlisted them for a Genius Award.)

The main attraction this weekend is the Pajama Men, formerly known as Sabotage back when they came to the Seattle fringe festival and got stiffed, along with most of the other performing artists, when the festival went down in flames. So they'll probably never return to Seattle—they've cursed the place, shaken our dust from their feet, and moved on to performer for luckier people in happier cities—so YOU must go to THEM.


A paean: I know, I'm not crazy about the name either—but The Pajama Men is one of only two comedy duos I've seen (the other is Cody Rivers) whose performances are as rigorous and hermetic as the best theater and dance. Most comedy just reflects and riffs on the world. The Pajama Men's fast, tight fictions (one concerns a horse who wants to kill, but cannot bring himself to kill, his rider; another concerns variations on an old couple walking through a park, verbally abusing each other) imagine new possibilities—they rethink the world.

They've got crazy discipline—they switch between characters as quickly as you'd blink—and understand precisely how long an audience's attention will follow one idea.

I still remember a sketch from years ago about a father and daughter in a haunted building, exactly what their faces, voices, and personalities were like. (He was patient, funny, the kind of dad everyone wants. She was squeaky-voiced and that painful combination of pushy and ashamed that you only find in adolescents and developmentally disabled adults.) It remains one of my favorite, most vivid memories of a live performance anywhere, ever, along with that one production of Platonov and Dorky Park.

To their credit, the Pajama Men don't have any YouTube videos that I could find (theater is always degraded by the camera—the most angelic performance, mediated by a screen, will turn to mud), but if you have any sense, you will travel to them. Two years ago, I followed them to Vancouver; this weekend, I'm taking the train to Bellingham.

Sketchingham runs three weekends total, with comedians and sketch groups from Seattle (David Cope, Emmett Montgomery, Becky Poole) as well as New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City.

But I only ever care about the Pajama Men.

Get your Sketchingham tickets here. And your train tickets here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Critics Behaving Badly

posted by on March 26 at 2:15 PM


A story from LA Weekly critic Steven Mikulan about jackass reviewers on opening night: they drink too much, steal boxes of food, double-dip crudites, pitch their own projects ("give a critic and inch, he'll write a play"), and abuse the talent:

"She goes up to the playwright," the producer-publicist continues, "and in front of his cast and director, says, 'Your play is awful and you don't know how to write, but at least you're cute.' She ripped his heart out. He was devastated."

Theater Off Jackson Abandons—or Maybe Postpones?—Georgetown Project

posted by on March 26 at 1:10 PM

Back in October, I got all excited because Theater Off Jackson announced they'd be opening a second location in Georgetown, called Exit 162, in the fusty caverns of Eagles Aerie #1.

This was good news for Georgetown (Exit 162 was to open on Corson, just a postprandial stroll away from Matt Dillon's new restaurant, The Corson Building) and great news for theater—stage space is hard to come by these days and TOJ has demonstrated good judgement, presenting Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes, Mike Daisey, a weirdly amusing Dracula musical, The Cody Rivers Show, an annual Solo Performance Festival (which might be the kernel for a new, improved fringe festival) and other theater worth watching.

It was also good p.r. for the Sabey Corporation, the real-estate titan that owns lots of Georgetown (including the old Rainier Brewery) and has a fractious relationship with its Keep-Georgetown-Quaint neighbors. Sabey was giving TOJ everything but money—lawyers, consultants, designers, etc.—to help it buy and renovate the Eagles building.

Anyway, deal's off. TOJ couldn't find the money.

From an email they just sent:

We are very sorry to announce that TOJ has not been able to secure the necessary funding to move forward with the purchase of the Eagles property. Despite our best efforts, this particular project proved to be too ambitious for an organization of our size.

They're trying to sound hopeful:

We are still committed to owning a home in Georgetown, and will regroup to build support before seeking out another property.

But it sounds like doom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tomorrow Night: A Very Weepy, Breast-Beaty Laff Hole

posted by on March 25 at 12:42 PM

Tomorrow, a little bit of Seattle comedy will die.

Scott Moran—one of the four founders of the People's Republic of Komedy—will perform his final Laff Hole before moving to New York.

Meaning this'll be the last time you'll see Scott and Emmett and Dan and Kevin on the same stage for a long time. Maybe forever.

It's the end of an era. Other promising young comedians have fled Seattle (godspeed, Hari Kondabolu), but PROK has been the center of gravity for the Seattle alternative comedy scene, which has given us Laff Hole and a bunch of other crap we like: Lo Ball, the Entertainment Show, Dartmondo, the Week of Fun, Get Lowded, and Blood Squad—which has the unprecedented distinction of being favorably reviewed by Lindy West, Cienna Madrid, Annie Wagner, and me. And we're all bitches.

Anyway: Scott. He's a charming, funny guy who looks good in a suit jacket and wears his age better than anybody else in the Seattle comedy scene—maybe anybody else in Seattle:

See? You can also admire Scott talking about Dave Matthews here and Transformers here.

Laff Hole. Tomorrow night. Chop Suey. 8 pm. The end of an era.

And, finally, please enjoy this picture of the original "laff hole":


Sunday, March 23, 2008

WET Gets Robbed

posted by on March 23 at 1:26 AM

During (after?) this evening's performance of Mr. Marmalade (Mr. Kiley's review is here) at Washington Ensemble Theatre up on 19th Avenue, the guy who was watching the cash box went into Fuel to get some coffee and while he was in there someone walked in, took all the money, and left. WET actor Michael Place, who was standing outside the theater after the show, estimated they lost a couple hundred dollars. If you know anything, spill it here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cheetah on a Leash

posted by on March 21 at 11:03 AM

Animal rights people are flipping out over the use of wild animals in a South African production of Aida:

The animals are transported daily from an animal park through the streets of Johannesburg to take part in the evening production.

And where do they keep these wild animals while they're on stage?

A Civic Theatre insider said the cheetah was held on a leash and the lions kept in a cage.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, a (mild) cheetah attack:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You Know What's Wrong with Airports? Not Enough Modern Dance.

posted by on March 18 at 2:52 PM

This morning, Alice Gosti, an honors student at the University of Washington, invited us to Sea-Tac tomorrow to see her off on her "airport dance" project, in which she will fly to Germany and Iceland, dance a solo in their airports, and then fly back.

From her email:

I have been working for two years on an Airport Performance project, with significant funding from a Mary Gates Research Award and Venture Scholarship. "Airport Dance" is a solo performance piece that will travel from airport to airport all around the world within the brief time span of 10 days. The work/performer will interact with a characteristic shared by all airports—the power to alter one's perception of space and time. I am interested in juxtaposing the airport—a place where space and time are warped or even suspended with dance—an art form completely dependent on how we perceive the body moving in space and time.

I corresponded with numerous national and international airports. Most did not respond. But there were some willing and adventuresome respondents from Seattle, Germany and Iceland.

Hmm... Flying around Europe, with some nominal art-ing on the way there and back, paid for by an arts grant?

Come to think of it, I've got this interview-people-waiting-in-airports-in-tropical-climates project I've always wanted to do...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Moves: Prayer for My Enemy Goes to Off-Broadway, Freehold Goes to Belltown

posted by on March 14 at 6:21 PM


The latest by the writer/director team of Craig Lucas and Bart Sher is scheduled to premiere at Playwrights Horizons in 2008.

(It was originally scheduled to premiere at the Roundabout, but Lucas and his agent pulled it because the theater wanted forty percent of the play's subsidiary rights for the next ten years.)

Congratulations to Sher and Lucas, even if Prayer, at least in its Seattle iteration, wasn't our favorite. Paul Constant's review put it well:

The theater world would be a better, more populous place if nobody ever produced another play about an adult son with a tough-as-nails father, a frazzled mother, and an inferiority complex. That's a lot of cliché, but at least it is well-acted cliché.


Freehold, after being booted out of Odd Fellows Hall, is moving to the old Speakeasy space, on the second floor of 2222 Second Ave. (Freehold's numerologists are happier than they've ever been.)

Our new location has a beloved history having been a former fringe-theatre space set in the heart of the vibrant Belltown neighborhood currently anchored by numerous coffee shops, restaurants and art galleries. Our new space will house two large studios (which includes a 49 seat performance space), a writing room, and administrative offices. Macha Monkey (, also a former Odd Fellows' Hall tenant, will be sharing space with Freehold at our new location.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wondering Who's Going to Star in The Diary of Anne Frank at Intiman?

posted by on March 13 at 11:08 AM






Ladies and gentlemen: Lucy Chet Devito.

And who's playing Mrs. Frank? Last year's Stranger Genius Award winner, Amy motherfucking Thone. Hurrah for that.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

God Bless the Ancient Apparatchik

posted by on March 12 at 5:40 PM

I just got back from interviewing a member of an Uzbek theater company, Ilkhom, which has produced rebellious, anti-authoritarian plays since the Soviets were in power.

Its leader, Mark Weil, was stabbed to death in front of his apartment in Tashkent six months ago, possibly by Muslim fundamentalists, outraged that some Ilkhom shows feature sympathetic gay characters (which is still superlatively taboo in Uzbekistan) and heretical interpretations of the Koran (ditto).

Ilkhom started small in the basement of an abandoned building in Tashkent but eventually got famous and toured to Moscow, where the Culture Ministry freaked out because the company was producing rebellious work by forbidden playwrights. But the Soviets let them be.

I asked how they got away with it.

There was an old Soviet functionary named Rajim Karev [phonetic spelling] who said 'I do not know what you do, but I am sure you do something right.' He was very powerful in the culture ministry, one of the old communists who was not afraid of anything—he survived the Stalin repression and what could be worse than that? And he always said to young functionaries who wanted to close the theater: 'You will NOT close this theater and you will obey me because I saw Lenin when he was ALIVE!'

The Ilkhom actor smiled.

Maybe he saw that the system was in sunset. Mark Weil always remembered that functionary with good feelings.

Ilkhom will perform two U.S. premieres (photo below from one of 'em) at ACT Theatre. Previews begin this Friday.


Monday, March 10, 2008

"He's the Most Singinest Janitor I Ever Seen"

posted by on March 10 at 10:40 AM

These folks decided to stage a musical number in a mall food court. Though I'm generally annoyed by audience-participation things, especially when the audience doesn't realize they're participating, I'm kind of delighted by both the performance and the annoyed looks on some of the food court patrons' faces.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New York Acknowledges Seattle’s Existence, Part Two

posted by on March 9 at 7:24 PM

And, on the front page of the arts section of today's New York Times, is a story about the state of regional theaters, which discusses "The Empty Spaces Or, How Theater Failed America"—an essay by Mike Daisey commissioned by and published in "the alternative Seattle newspaper The Stranger."


Friday, March 7, 2008

Imbeciles in America (or at Least in Deerfield, Illinois)

posted by on March 7 at 11:15 AM

Deerfield High School is again under fire by a North Shore Christian group because the school offers the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes" to college-bound seniors.
Lora Sue Hauser, executive director of NSSA, complained that the book is replete with profanity, overt racism, an explicit description of a sex act involving Mother Teresa and vivid depictions of sodomy.

"After almost 15 years of school advocacy and reviewing many objectionable books and curricula, I have never seen anything this vulgar and harmful to students," Hauser said.

You should read Shakespeare sometime, Lora Sue. Try and count the cock and cunt jokes in Henry IV alone—you'll lose your tiny, tiny mind.

Last year, Lora Sue and the NSSA slammed the Deerfield School District for the unconscionable crime of admitting there might be such a creature as a gay high school student:

The school district and NSSA clashed last year over a freshman orientation session where students talked about bullying and other issues and included gay students relating their experience in high school.

This year, the Christian imbeciles are pressuring the school board to fire all the principal, the district superintendent George Fornero, and all teachers involved with the Angels in America program (for which Tony Kushner shows up to discuss the play with those lucky, lucky students).

If you want to send an email to the school board encouraging them not to capitulate to willfully ignorant imbeciles like Lora Sue, email board president Helene Herbstman at:

And board vice president Ken Fishbain at:

And, if you want to tell the good folks at the NSSA to keep their imbecilic lit-crit to themselves, email Lora Sue at her "Illinois Family Institute" address:

But be polite.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Seattle to Denver: You Must Respect!

posted by on March 4 at 2:57 PM

"The Denver Center Theatre Company is taking 100 percent credit for conceiving the book 'Plainsong' as a play," said co-artistic director Myra Platt. "But the truth is, without Kent Haruf's and Kent Thompson's association with Book-It Theatre's world-premiere production, the DCTC production would have never come to fruition. We don't feel like we got credit where credit is due."

Sooo—does that mean Book-It owes an apology to everyone who's adapted, say Persuasion or Snow Falling on Cedars or Peter Pan or just about every-goddamned-thing in their 2007 season, all of which have been adapted before?

(Full story here.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hometown Hero

posted by on February 25 at 1:08 PM

The NYT Magazine fawns over profiles Bart Sher.


"Sher's contract [with Intiman] is up in 2009; last year he spent 210 days in New York."